Do college students want to return to campus in the fall? Do their parents want university life to resume? If so, under what conditions? How should campus life, as well as transportation and shared mobility, work? Our survey of college students and parents gives insights into these sentiments.
Our BreakShuttle service provides shared mobility transportation for thousands of college students and families in the United States. With uncertainty about group interactions a fact of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, we sent a survey to over 16,000 past customers to better understand their concerns and priorities related to university life, activity, and transportation.
Our online opinion survey was distributed to previous riders or people who purchased tickets for someone else at 12 different universities across the country. The survey was available from May 13, 2020 to May 20, 2020. We received 619 respondents from previous riders or people who purchased a ticket for someone else, for a participation rate of 3.83%. Participation across schools varied greatly and can be seen in the overview chart below. The results also can be broken down between school year and whether a respondent was a rider or purchaser.
Survey Results: Overview and Demographic Breakdown
Student and Parent Sentiment on University Life in Fall 2020
Of the survey respondents, an overwhelming 95% are planning to return to campus, but while 50% of respondents just want classes and normal activity to resume in August, 50% believe in some sort of modification to the typical semester schedule. 21% suggested that classes should return at a later date and 14% suggested that campuses should remain closed with classes completely remote/online. This suggests that while many people are planning on returning to campus, they may be doing so with reservations or deep concerns about staying healthy on campus.
Shared Mobility During COVID-19: What Would Make Bus Ridership More Appealing?
Safety and public health are two of the most important considerations when choosing a transportation option. We asked our respondents what specific actions would make them more likely to use BreakShuttle during breaks. Perhaps surprisingly, the top-rated response was not rigorous cleaning or limiting passengers or physical distancing (although these factors ranked highly) but refundable tickets. This may show that the uncertainty of the pandemic is at the top of people’s minds, especially with how fast guidance and schedules can change. Providing flexibility and rapid response in the face of changing events will be important in making people feel comfortable.
Transportation Choices During COVID-19: Which Options Are You More Likely to Use?
We also asked generally about shared transportation, gauging people’s likelihood of using a particular transportation option. Overall, all forms of shared mobility rated poorly, with more than 50% of people reporting they would be unlikely or extremely unlikely to use any except ridehailing (Uber/Lyft), a plane, or a bus in the next 6 months.
Some responses that ranked low, like Subways and Shared E-scooters, are not available in all areas which may account for some of people’s likelihood to use them in the next six months. For example, respondents who live in suburban neighborhoods or exurbs may not be familiar with shared mobility options such as bikeshare. Wells + Associates’ analysis of shared mobility during the early days of the pandemic indicated that urban residents actually preferred bikeshare options during COVID-19. The overall poor ratings, however, do speak to the need to reassure people and make sure they feel comfortable and safe or they may not come back to shared mobility options while the uncertainty of the pandemic remains.
During COVID-19, Which On-Campus Activities Concern You Most?
80% of respondents report having concerns about returning to campus. More than 50% of respondents are concerned about the ability to afford to get to campus, attending large events, and being in a classroom physically with other students.
Sentiments Regarding Tuition, Online Schooling, and Gap Semester/Years
Respondents are split on whether to take time off next semester if campuses do not reopen, but they feel strongly about online classes and costs. 68% of respondents believe that tuition for online classes they were expecting to take in person should be reduced. More intensely, 92% of respondents believe that if they are only taking classes online, they should not have to pay for campus-related costs such as on-campus housing, meals, or other living expenses.
Overall, the respondents are hopeful to return to campus in the fall, but they have concerns about on-campus activities and reservations about using shared-mobility transportation to get to campus other than driving in private vehicles. The survey indicates that BreakShuttle and our partner universities must listen to our community members while using public health guidance and best practices to make sure students are safe not only while traveling but also after they arrive on campus.
The survey responses presented in this post have not been weighted and represent only the sample of respondents. Due to the risk of non-response and self-selection bias, these results are intended to be a snapshot of BreakShuttle customer opinions and do not make a statistical inference on broader populations. That being said, we believe these results can still be used to provide insights on students’ transportation-related concerns and their opinions on shared mobility during the COVID-19 pandemic.